Eighty-four percent of Florida voters and 92 percent of Panhandle voters support a bill approved by a Senate committee that would ensure the BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration, according to a new poll released today at news conferences in Tallahassee and Pensacola. The poll also showed 75 percent of Florida voters and 82 percent of Panhandle voters are more likely to support candidates who back the legislation.
“Voters haven’t forgotten the BP oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history because our ecosystem and economy are still recovering from it a year-and-a-half later,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. “They recognize that the BP oil spill fines would dramatically accelerate our recovery.”
The telephone poll by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s pollster, Hamilton Campaigns, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s pollster, Ayres McHenry & Associates, was conducted between November 30 and December 4, 2011, and sampled 700 registered Florida voters in the metropolitan areas of Miami, Orlando, the Panhandle/Northeast, South Central Florida (Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach media markets), and Tampa, who are likely to vote in the November 2012 election. It includes an oversample of 100 registered likely voters in the Panhandle (Pensacola and Panama City media markets) because that’s where the BP oil spill caused the most environmental and economic damage.
“Regardless of political party or region of the state, this is an issue that unites Florida voters, when so many other issues divide them,” said Dave Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns, based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, which does consulting and polling for Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations. “There is broad, bipartisan support for ensuring that fines paid by BP and any other parties responsible for the spill actually are targeted to the Gulf Coast states hurt by the spill.”
The poll is timely because last Monday, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force issued its final report, recommending that Congress ensure that a “significant portion” of the BP oil spill fines go to restoring the Gulf. In late September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, (S. 1400), co-authored by Senators Nelson and Rubio. It would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-$21 billion in expected fines for the BP oil spill to restoring the Gulf ecosystem and economy. The House version of the bill, (H.R. 3096), is co-sponsored by nine Florida House members: Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (FL-4), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-21), Jeff Miller (FL-1), Richard Nugent (FL-5), David Rivera (FL-25), Thomas Rooney (FL-16), Dennis Ross (FL-12), Steve Southerland (FL-2), and Allen B. West (FL-22).
However, if Congress fails to pass the RESTORE Act, the spill fines will be used for unrelated federal spending or to reduce the federal deficit.
The poll showed that voters favored using the oil spill fines for Gulf Coast restoration instead of reducing the deficit by nearly a 7-1 margin: 79 percent to 12 percent.
“Support for this proposal cuts across traditional partisan lines. Florida GOP voters and Tea Party supporters also favor using the Gulf spill fines for Gulf restoration over deficit reduction by nearly a 7-1 margin, said Dr. Whit Ayres, founder and president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc., a national public opinion and public affairs research firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm specializes in providing research and strategic advice for corporations, associations, and GOP candidates.
The poll found strong support across party lines for legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:
• 82% of Republicans and 84% of GOP presidential primary voters
• 84% of Tea Party supporters
• 88% of Independents
• 83% of Democrats
The poll also found that the vast majority of Florida voters--regardless of political affiliation--also support candidates who back legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:
• 73% of Republicans and 73% of GOP presidential primary voters
• 72% of Tea Party supporters
• 72% of Independents
• 78% of Democrats
“Florida voters statewide across the political spectrum expect their representatives in Washington to ensure that fines from the BP oil disaster are used to restore the lingering environmental and economic damage from the spill, where they belong,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Ocean Conservancy and Oxfam America, the groups which funded the poll, except for Ocean Conservancy. “The reason is simple: 98 percent of the voters in this poll believe a healthy Gulf ecosystem is important to the state’s economy.”
Duke University also released a report last Monday concluding the Gulf oil spill fines could kick start the launch of a long-term investment in ecosystem restoration and create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states, including nearly 60 in Florida.
“Investing in coastal restoration work is a highly leveraged activity that creates ripple effects for hundreds of businesses and a wide variety of workers,” said James Marino, P.E., president of Taylor Engineering, an employee-owned design firm that restored seven miles of critically eroded beaches battered by hurricanes in Walton County and the city of Destin in Okaloosa County and has offices in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Destin, Florida. “Restoring wetlands and beaches would help many small business owners in ecotourism, the marine construction sector, and equipment manufacturing, produce jobs and local tax revenue, and grow the economy.”
“Members of Congress from both parties have an opportunity to put aside their differences and pass this bipartisan bill—which doesn’t spend any taxpayer funds—and has huge public support,” said Michael L. Davis, Vice President and Principal, Keith and Schnars, P.A., an environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Doral, Florida. “The RESTORE Act will help right the wrong of the BP oil disaster by funding restoration projects that will trigger a value added chain that goes far beyond planning and design firms like mine, benefiting contractors and equipment manufactures as well.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.